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Where do we Start?


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How can we eliminate or at least reduce:
people, process, information, and asset wastes? 

What is the starting point of implementing Lean Office Kaizen?  The very first place to start is Leadership.  Why?  These wastes have occurred because there is a lack of leadership in not setting up the most efficient processes/procedures in the first place.  Supervisors and managers have fallen into the habit of fire-fighting (dealing with daily crises) instead of really looking at the problems and finding out what is causing them.  Again, it’s a Time problem.  If all you are doing all day is spending your time on short-term solutions, the perception is there is little time to do any long-term process improvements.

Let us take a look at the concept of Leadership and why it is not only essential to the success of Lean Office Kaizen, it is the key to using all of the appropriate Lean tools available for implementation.


“Contrary to the opinion of many people, leaders are not born.  Leaders are made, and they are made by effort and hard work”
                   -Vince Lombardi

Leadership at all levels of the company is the core of Lean Office Kaizen. 

All of the Lean tools and the directions to the efforts of the workers flow from the leaders.  An environment is created to implement change with the attitude of how this will be good for all.  Leadership defines the new goals and with persistence and with an open mind (and an open door!), truly leads the way to a better and more competitive workplace. 

          -“Leadership commitment to the Lean principles was found to be an essential ingredient to insure lasting improvements and continuous improvement.  (It) must start with those who establish and sustain the values through practice and policy.”
          -Gerald Davies “Lean Service”

The tools of Leadership are Focus, Structure, Discipline, and Ownership. 

According to William Lareau who writes in his book, Office Kaizen, “In a carefully led environment, these parameters (focus, structure, discipline, and ownership) will naturally increase and provide the substance for a world-class organization.”

How Focus Structure Discipline and Ownership Interact


When it comes to a leader’s focus, Mr. Lareau writes, “Focus is the application of energy and attention to critical objectives.  Focus must be present at every level of the organization in an appropriate manner.”  That application of focused energy is what drives the success of reaching Lean Office Kaizen’s goals since leaders are the “champions” of those goals. 

Leaders are also teachers and this can be a challenge for many mangers.

          -“The role change for the manager or supervisor to become the ‘teacher’ was a challenge in some organizations.  When it occurred well, it required more preparation to get the improvement, but the changes appear to be far more stable and long-lasting.  The risk taken was the tendency for supervisors to see their job as knowing all the answers rather than helping their people find the answers.”
          -Gerald Davies “Lean Service”

Leaders define the priorities.  Leaders ensure that everyone understands the goals, and they show the path that must be taken.  While on that path to success, there will be obstacles, and it is the leader’s job to knock down any barriers to the achievement of the goal of eliminating and reducing waste. Leaders encourage those employees who are not yet doing their best and enlist ideas for improvements. 


Structure is the basis of any organization.  According to Mr. Lareau, “Structure is the written and unwritten rules, guidelines, processes, and behaviors that are actually followed, not simply stated.  In a sentence, structure is the repeatable, generally constant framework that guides what happens day-to-day in an organization.” In addition, structure includes the company’s organizational charts, departments, vision statements, and mission statements.  It also includes flowcharts, departments, areas, and process sheets.

Structure is what provides the direction to the work that should be done and how to do it with reduced waste.  Standardization is the key to a solid structure in a leadership environment.  “World-class organizations have developed structures that direct leadership’s focus more accurately and reliably to every work group than the average organization,” Lareau states.


Discipline is crucial in order to bridge the gap between focus and structure.  Lareau writes, “Discipline consists of the checks and balances, rewards, compulsions, and daily behaviors (by management and employees) that maintain the processes of leadership.  That is, people do what they are expected to do, and, if they don’t, somebody or some group finds out quickly and gets them back on track.”

With discipline, Leaders remind themselves to keep an open mind (and an open door) to new ideas.  They constantly promote Kaizens as a way of thinking and model that behavior to everyone.  Leaders find the way to do the “right thing” and promote that attitude in their day-to-day activities.


Everyone wants to feel ownership of things that are important to them.  For example, we all want to feel our work is part of the big picture, and we want to take pride in what we have accomplished. 

“It is leadership’s role to make it possible for each employee to readily establish ownership over their processes and work area.  Employee ownership of processes and outputs is the secret of all world-class ownership,” says Lareau.  Leaders make it possible for their employees to feel empowered to take ownership of their work.  With empowerment comes accountability and with accountability comes the feeling of ownership.  Every improvement requires at least one “owner,” and this owner can succeed only when there is a Leadership Culture in place.


Through empowerment and accountability, the improvements will finally reach the point of execution.  Execution is the most difficult to accomplish, and if the execution is poor, the result is failure.  It is the Leader’s responsibility to have the courage to say, “Let’s do it!” and to see each project through to its successful conclusion.

Lean Office Basics

Module 1 - The Path to a Cost Effective Administration
Module 2 - Installing Lean Office Kaizen How to Get There
Module 3 - Where do we Start?
Module 4 - Are Leadership and Management the Same?
Module 5 - The Essential Leadership Skills Needed
Module 6 - Your Sources of Power
Module 7 - Risk Taking... Comes with It!
The TOOLS! - Lean Office Kaizen Tools
Obviously Leadership is our First Tool and all the above pages are devoted to decribe it.
4th Tool: Just In Time
5th Tool - Zero Quality Control or Autonomous Quality
6th Tool - Standardized Work – Cross-Training – Cellular Operation




If you find all this free information useful, just imagine how much your operation will improve when we can work together one on one!

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Enrique Mora
Lean Management Training
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This page last updated on

2 August, 2009 10:39









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